Friday, January 30, 2015

The most missed tax deductions..

Hello everyone, hope you all had a wonderful week. Slowly we will transition from winter to spring in a few weeks. When I think of spring, I am always reminded of the beautiful flowers that bloom on the side of the freeway and the next thing that comes to my mind is taxes.
It always feels like we just did taxes, and now it is January/February and  we have to do it again. Usually my husband does  taxes for our household, but I keep reading about the things on which we can get a break. Most popular software tools for doing taxes for  year 2015 are Turbo Tax, H&R  Block and TAX ACT  .. If you are single and you have very simple tax to do I would recommend TAX ACT. If more complicated then Turbo tax has worked better for us. Have not tried H&R block so any reviews are welcome. If you are a Vanguard member then you get $20 off turbo tax Vanguard Turbo tax offer.
I have always thought all tax terms are very complicated , actually it is not , I will try to put down some basic points to make it simple.It is quiet possible that when you file taxes you might miss to include some of the deductions that could lower your tax bill or increase your refund.We all usually do it at the last minute and in a rush would forget few things, I would like to go over them so you can keep this as your checklist

*Tax break for nursing moms: This is the new tax break this year. In 2010 IRS declined this break. Now IRS has changed that rule due to the increased benefits seen on breast feeding. Breast feeding moms can spend up to $1000 on breast pump and other essential supplies, so this is a welcoming tax break. Check out here to know more IRS website info.

*Student Tax break: The lifetime learning credit may be as high as $2000 per eligible student. Individual tax payers who earn less than $52,000 or married couple who file jointly and make  $104,000 or less are eligible. Read here to know more Lifetime learning credit.

*Savers tax credit:  This is the tax credit for retirement plans such as 401(k)s and other retirement plan. For people with lower income qualify for higher credit up to $1000 for people filing as single and up to $2000 for people filing jointly. To qualify for this credit the income of the single filers must be $30,000 yearly, or $60,000 for those who file jointly. You must not be a student in that year or someones dependent to claim this tax break. Read here to know more Savers Tax Credit

*Sales Tax: You have the option of deducting sales taxes  off your federal income tax.  If you made big purchases like a car,  engagement ring etc you have to itemize it to take the deduction.

*Health insurance Premium: If  your  medical expenses exceeds 7.5% of your adjusted gross income then it can  be deducted. If you are self employed and you are 100% responsible for your own premium cost then it gets taken off your adjusted gross income than as a itemized deduction.

*Charitable gifts :Any money donated for charity can be itemized. It is always a good practice to save the receipts in case of an audit.

*Teachers tax credit: Teachers often pay from their own pocket fro some of the supplies. IRS appreciates it and lets teachers deduct $250 for materials. You can subtract this amount from your income.

*Child care credit: This is one credit available regardless of your income.If the annual income of a household is lesser you might get a higher break than a household with higher income.

*Looking for a job: If in the past year you were looking for a job and you had some expenses related to it then you can itemize those deductions. As usual it is a good practice to save all the receipts.

*Self-employed Social Security: If you are self employed then you will have to pay 15.3% of your income as Social Security tax. One good things is IRS lest you deduct 7.65% from your income while filing taxes.

In general a household with annual income of $50,000 to $60,000 will get more deductions. Higher the tax bracket lower will be the deductions. The whole idea is to make sure you go through all these points and make sure you file it correctly. Have a wonderful weekend.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Want to know how to make Dosa Pizza???

Hello All, TGIF. I am really happy that a busy and sick week is coming to an end. Allergies in Austin is at its peak now I guess. All of us are sick and hope it gets better. I am happy to write my 150th post. I really feel accomplished and thank you all for the support.

There is a very good deal on Entertainment Book or the Coupon Book. This book has coupons to so many activities in Austin. There are many coupons  for restaurants like Cabo Bobs, Fire Bowl, Bombay Grill, Frullati Cafe and Bakery in Barton Creek Mall, Moaz Vegetarian, Bombay Bistro, India Palace, Sarover Indian Restaurant, Royal India, Pita pit, Apple bees, Quiznos, Start of India, Taco Bell(One restaurant where I never go , but my husband loves it, he always gets something from there once in awhile with these coupons), McDonald, most of them are buy on entree and get another free. There are also coupons for Pump it up, Austin Zoo, Aquarium, My Gym fitness center,Lady Bird Johnson World Flower Center, Zilker Park Botanical Garden, Zilker Park Boat Rental etc. The good news is the books are only $10 with free shipping and you have a whole year to use them. Buy Entertainment book for $10 with free shipping.

I usually grind dosa batter at home almost every week. I always have some batter left over from previous weeks . I will end up making dosa for myself with it and still there will be some left. The only other dish I sometimes make with it is "Kuzhi Panigaram" . Even that is also not  interesting to my family members and I end up eating it .Very rarely I will throw away the old batter if it becomes very sour.

Few months back I tried to make  Dosa Pizza , it was not welcomed that much since it tasted like uthappam with cheese and the base was soggy. I was always in search of a very good recipe on how to make pizza with dosa base. The irony of life is when you search very hard for something you dont get it immediately. Last weekend, you tube suggested a video for me to watch. Believe me this is the first time I am watching this cook show "Cooking with Venkatesh Bhatt".Guess what the show was about ??? It was "How to make Dosa Pizza". The trick is to make thick dosa's and cool it and then on low flame add the tomato sauce and the toppings and cheese and cover it. This tasted very good and the crust was similar to general pizza crust when eaten hot. Last Monday when my kids were home I made this and it was a superb hit. Now I have another problem to face they dont want normal dosas anymore :). But this is a good way to finish the left over batter and at the same time you can give kids a healthier version of pizza. Watch the video to know how it is made.Have a wonderful weekend and stay tuned :)

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Happy Pongal :)

Hope all  of you are enjoying your weekend.Yesterday for dinner we went  to this trailer Trai Mai Thai. I saw this groupon and was not sure how the food would be. We took a chance and it was amazing. Our son loved their pineapple fried rice a lot.This place has good vegetarian options and you get 24$ worth food for $12.

Hope all of you celebrated Pongal very well. We celebrated it today since last week was very busy and my daughter was very sick with viral infection. She is slowly recovering now. My kids loved the sweet pongal I made (Of course,anything sweet always wins with kids) .

Before I started this blog , I never knew  "Austin Tamil sangam" existed. Only through this blog I connected to people and recently wrote an article for Austin Tamil Sangam Newsletter.  This was my first venture writing in Tamil.I was all excited about it and figured out that it is very easy to write in Tamil from English through  goggle tools. There were many wonderful articles published and after reading them I felt that I have to improve my writing skills a lot .Hats off to all the contributors.

Austin Tamil Sangam is  organizing a Pongal celebration .  Looking forward to it, as I missed their deepavali celebration, where they had tasty food served. In this year's pongal celebration there will be tamil skits, dance and other traditional tamil folk dances like Poikaal Kuthirai, Karagaatam and Mayilattam.  I am pretty sure it will be an amazing line of  performance. All of you are welcome. details are 

Date :January 31st 2015 Saturday from 3:30 pm to 8 pm.
Where: Lanier High School   
             1201 Payton Gin Road, Austin TX 78758

Tickets will be on sale soon and check this website Austin Tamil Sangam  for more information. See you all there and have a nice rest of the week. Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Does Costco organic whole milk contain fish oil??

Hello All, I recently read that AT&T offers DATA roll over. Call them and ask if your plan is eligible for one. We checked and ours is not eligible. We need an upgrade, good luck with yours.

For all IPAD lovers there is a very good deal in groupon Apple iPad Air 16GB WiFi Tablet with 9.7" Retina Display is for $329.99. Also check this deal  on iRobot Roomba 560 Automatic Vacuum Cleaner for $199 original $349.

Humans are the only species who drink animal (cow,goat) milk. May be in olden days people owned a  cow and drank the milk produced from it. But these days we dont know where our milk comes from. I really want to try to wean away from milk but I dont like any other alternatives. One of my uncle is a strong anti-milk person. He did so much of research on it and finally concluded that our body doesn't need milk. After reading all this news I am soon going to follow his footsteps. Some milk contain growth hormones that could cause adverse effects on our body. We need to be really careful about it or better don't consume it.

I recently read an article where it mentioned that organic whole milk from Costco contains fish oil in it. I really dont like fish oil in my food. If you are like me then you would not want it in your milk. Looks like they add fish oil to provide Omega-3 to the consumers. Most of the time we never look at the ingredients and especially when I take my kids for shopping, I really dont look into anything. Mind is always focused on how soon we can leave the store. We never buy milk from Costco. To know about the general things that we buy from Costco read these posts Are you costco member??read this post and also Are you a coscto member ??read this post II. We are very picky on the milk we drink and also give our kids. We always get our milk from whole foods.

So for all of you who buy milk from Costco or other stores please read about pasteurization and growth hormones. "Organic" has just become a fancy name and that doesn't necessarily mean good.I think this applies to all foods that we buy from outside. Most of them contain so much of preservatives that are not good. So always read your ingredients and read about ingredients online to know what you are consuming. Good night and see you all soon with another post. Stay tuned and share your thoughts.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Happy New Year!!

Hello All, Hope all is well. First Monday of the year,hope all of you had a wonderful day. I had very good 2 week break with kids at home. Our kids school was closed .I would like to share few things that happened in last 2 weeks with you all

*I salute to all stay at home moms. I stayed home with my kids for 2 weeks and I realized how difficult of a job it is to take care of kids and also the household staying home. I really admire all of you, give yourself a pat for the wonderful job that you all do.

*One day we took our kids to thinkery (Austin Children's Museum)and I came to know from a friend about this tie up between all Museums around the US  and Bank of America. Check this out for more information Museums on us . If you show your Bank of America credit or debit card with photo id you get free entry for one person during the first full weekend of every month. Grab this mommies with kids below 2 years as this would mean a free visit for you.  Also thinkery has donation entry every Wednesday from 4-8 pm. If you go on Wednesday evening you can drop in any amount that you want , they will have a donation box .

*We had family over for dinner one evening. I really enjoyed cooking for them and entertaining them.

*We (mainly my husband) put up curtains that we got from India in our living room , that was a great accomplishment and I really appreciate my husband for doing it.Check this out and let me know what you think about it

*Every year during new year's eve I will be awake till 12 and will be all excited. This year I slept by 11 and treated it just like another day, May be I am maturing :).

*We had got some Hindu mythological story DVD from India and during TV time my son watched them. We went to Austin Hindu Temple yesterday and was amazed by how well he related all the stories he saw to the Gods and he chanted the slogas that we teach him everyday while driving to school in the car.

*There was some dance function at the Austin Hindu Temple yesterday and I thoroughly enjoyed the  performances by the kids. I could not stay throughout the performance.
If any of you know or have a schedule of these performances in a year let me know , I would love to come and watch them. A picture taken during the performance.

*Finally made thiruvathirai kali and 7 kai kootu and had it for dinner today. Happy Thiruvathirai  to all of you.

New year has begun and the break is over and the busy schedule has started, for all of you who dont know there is a new rule in Austin that you cannot use handheld devices while driving. This is a very good rule but I always use my phone for navigation , we got this from amazon One Touch Windshield Dashboard Car Mount Holder for iPhone 6 (4.7) /5s/5c/4s, Galaxy S4/S3/S2, HTC One - Retail Packaging - Black after very good reviews from our friends and I really like it. Hope all of you have a nice week ahead and will see you soon with another post.

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